If you have attended many hatha yoga classes, you surely have heard the teacher talk about the psoas muscle or iliopsoas muscle (when paired with the iliacus). As part of my teaching practice, I often offer my most beloved method to release the psoas prior to initiating the asana and meditation practice.
Besides teaching hatha classes where I invite the students to release and explore this muscle, I also teach the workshop “Yoga for the Core”. In this workshop people are surprised that we don’t go into strengthening and toning practices only. In fact, we spend about half of the time exploring core awareness! Awareness is key to developing the perfect balance between strength and mobility.
In exploring core awareness, the psoas is a major muscle impacting this process because of its location and function. The psoas responds to our fight or flight response, storing traumas and emotionally charged tension. It is triggered and tightened by the stress response. As many of us spend a substantial amount of time in the state of chronic stress, the psoas is constantly ready to run or fight. This leads to a short, dry, and shrunken muscle. Among the most common problems caused by dysfunction of the psoas muscle are low back pain, sacroiliac pain, sciatica, disc problems, spondylolysis, scoliosis, hip degeneration, knee pain, menstruation pain, infertility, and digestive problems.
Liz Koch refers to it as an organ of perception composed of bio-intelligent tissue that “literally embodies our deepest urge for survival, and more profoundly, our elemental desire to flourish.” Within the Taoist tradition the psoas is said to be the seat of the soul and surrounds the lower “Dan Tien” a major energy center of the body. Koch writes that “The psoas, by conducting energy, grounds us to the earth, just as a grounding wire prevents shocks and eliminates static on a radio. Freed and grounded, the spine can awaken”.
By cultivating core awareness and a healthy psoas, we are first reconnecting with the life force, allowing it to flow through the bones, muscles and joints. Consequently, ease and buoyancy are introduced to our movement and asana practice. A functional psoas muscle can enhance joint integrity, muscular tone, breathing, healthy organ functioning, and core stability. Learning to develop core awareness and improve core stability can be nourishing and freeing, and it will directly enhance the quality of your life.
To learn more, sign up for the workshop "Yoga for the Core" coming up at the end of September. There we will learn more about the psoas muscle and how to develop core stability.